Communication confusion: misconceptions concerning newborn behaviour and parental anxiety
Dr Pamela Douglas asks why SpaceX can launch a Tesla Roadster into outer space, showcasing our technological brilliance, yet new parents still receive conflicting and outdated advice which disrupts their relationship with their baby and even worsens breastfeeding, mood, cry-fuss and sleep problems.
She points out that despite evidence there is no real benefit, parents are advised to give their babies a great deal of unnecessary treatments, including antacid medications (which risk side-effects), painful laser incisions under the tongue and upper lip (when there is no classic tongue-tie), and advice to sleep train their baby (creating communication confusion). Methodologically weak studies, often by those with a vested financial interest, are promoted as if they are proof.
Dr Pam argues that the latest evidence propels us into paradigm shift across each domain of breastfeeding, crying and fussing, sleep and parental mood, and discusses the misconceptions that abound about baby communications in each of these domai
Some baby myths
An interview shortly after my book was launched.
Over-prescription of medications for crying babies
We’ve left this news item up because it demonstrates how messages get mixed in the media, despite everyone’s best intentions. This report was run after we published a systematic review in the BMJ which showed that anti-secretory medications do not decrease crying and irritability in infants in the first months of life. I don’t know where the idea that proton pump inhibitors results in vomiting, insomnia and diarrhoea came from but it wasn’t from us! What our study did show was that PPIs have been linked with an increased risk of infection, and that there is also a serious concern raised in the literature about increased risk of allergy, due to the effects of PPIs on immature gastric mucosa and protein breakdown. Our study showed that the advice to sleep the baby on wedges or to hold the baby upright after feeds does not make sense physiologically and lacks an evidence-base - reflux is not acidic in the first two hours after a feed of either breastmilk or formula, and in the first 16 weeks babies don’t cry, back-arch and refuse feeds due to oesophagitis. There are common reasons for this kind of unsettled behaviour, though, that do need to be identified and which can be helped.
Sleep training doesn’t help babies or their mothers in the first 6 months of life
This news item was run after we published a systematic review in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioural Pediatrics examining the effects of first-wave behavioural sleep interventions in the first 6 months of life - and also shows that messages can get a little mixed up in the media despite good intentions! Our study refers to the latest neuroscience which demonstrates the importance of a rich and healthy sensory diet for babies. When asked if we should strip away stimulation from the baby’s sleeping place, I explained that we don’t need to be removing mobiles and wall decorations from the baby's sleeping space, as is commonly advised. But neither would it be helpful to tell parents to specifically put in extra visual stimulation, so that wasn’t my idea! The sleep program that we have developed is peer-reviewed and published, and helps remove obstacles that get in the way of healthy parent-infant sleep. It’s different to the program for cry-fuss behaviours, which another one of our studies shows results in substantially reduced crying and fussing (from over 6 hours down to 3 hours in a 24 hour period).